Your Lowcountry paradise awaits

Special to the Packet and GazetteJanuary 7, 2013 

No one knows exactly when it's the perfect time to buy Lowcountry real estate; but recent market trends and forecasts suggest the time is now. Year-to-date information from the Multiple Listing Service of Hilton Head Island shows positive momentum in our market. Real estate transactions were up 24 percent in 2012 as compared to the prior year, while the inventory of properties for sale has decreased by 13 percent.

Average sale prices have remained relatively flat in our area recently, but the National Association of Realtors' Confidence Index predicts prices to increase between 2 percent and 5 percent nationally in 2013. Foreclosures and short sales continue to be on the decline and mortgage interest rates make financing a purchase particularly appealing.

It seems these factors, along with continued improvement in the national economy, an increase in tourism to our area, the investments that hotels and resorts are making to improve experiences and the retirement age mega-trend should increase the demand for Lowcountry real estate and property values for years to come.

The first step in moving forward with a real estate purchase is to define your objectives for the perfect property and to make a list of your priorities. These could include your desired location; the ideal size of your new property; your budget; rental income expectations; if you are interested in a fixer-upper; how often you intend to use the property; if you want a home or a villa; and whether you will retire there or eventually sell it.

When contemplating a Lowcountry real estate purchase, finding the right real estate agent also is key to understanding the market and making sure the process is a smooth one. Interview more than one agent and be sure the agent specializes in the type of property you are interested in. Take time to discuss your expectations with your agent. Also, be sure to consider using an agent who is a Realtor; among other benefits, members of the National Association of Realtors have a strict code of business ethics and have access to training and resources that non-members do not.

Next, be sure to consult your accountant and lawyer so that you fully understand the tax and insurance requirements, potential tax benefits and how to structure your mortgage loan. Getting pre-qualified or obtaining a loan pre-approval shows that you are serious and can expedite the closing process.

Getting these details worked out at the beginning of the purchase process will make things much easier as you look for your perfect piece of Lowcountry paradise to enjoy and profit from.

Robert Stenhammer has been a resort executive for more than 15 years. He is the president of Hilton Head Accommodations.

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